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Senate Ways and Means Releases Fiscal Year 2013 Budget

May 16, 2012

(Boston) – The Senate Committee on Ways and Means announced today its funding recommendations for fiscal year 2013 (FY13). The budget plan showcases the Senate’s unfaltering pledge to prioritize commitments that allow for greater transparency and smarter financial planning for the future.

The Senate proposal totals $32.275 billion with notable support for local aid, education, and meets our commitment for fixed costs, such as debt service, retiree benefits, and health care.

“This is a fiscally responsible and realistic budget that supports municipalities, ensures continued economic growth, provides relief to taxpayers, and protects the programs the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth depend on,” said Senator Karen Spilka.

One of the most significant spending increases fulfills a promise to municipal partners by increasing direct state aid to cities, towns, and school districts.

  • Overall, a $275.4 million increase in local aid over the amount appropriated in the FY12 budget;
  • $900 million in Unrestricted General Government Aid to provide cities and towns with more security as they craft their own budgets;
  • $4.17 billion in Chapter 70 education aid, ensuring that all school districts receive at least an additional $40 per pupil in aid;
  • $242.2 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker to fully fund the state’s commitment to share the cost of providing services to students with special needs;
  • $4 million for the Community Innovation Grant Program to cover start-up costs for municipal innovation; and
  • Strengthens the Community Preservation Act (CPA), by expanding the use of these funds to include rehabilitation  and restoration  and authorizes the use of alternative municipal revenues to supplement a reduced CPA property tax surcharge.

Most importantly, these new investments do not come at the cost of our neediest residents. The Committee’s budget continues to prioritize essential services for our most vulnerable citizens. The budget includes a provision to maintain mental health services, ensuring all regions of the state have access to care.  It also increases funding for elder protective services, substance abuse services, independent living centers, and the department of veterans services.

A skilled workforce means more people back to work; Massachusetts still maintains a lower jobless rate than the rest of the nation, but that is not good enough. This budget continues the commitment to improving our public higher education resources connection to our workforce needs. The Committee’s FY13 budget includes $10.9 million in new investments for this cause.  Additional resources will help improve the already strong partnership between our Community Colleges and local industries. New programs include a Rapid Response workforce program to expedite the process for community colleges to create a workforce training program by targeting specific requests from employers and the creation of a degree auditing system to more easily track credits, making it simpler for students to transfer from community colleges to a state university.

The Committee also calls for increased oversight of community colleges, requiring the Governor to appoint the chairman of the board of trustees for each community college and requiring that board to include a nonvoting industry representative from 1 of the 3 industries with the greatest projected number of job vacancies and a nonvoting vocational-technical school district trustee to represent each vocational-technical school in the geographic region.  The plan also requires community colleges to submit a self-assessment report to the Secretary of Education and the Board of Higher Education on the college’s collaboration with vocational-technical schools and training and job development programs they have implemented. Furthermore, it establishes the Office of Coordination within the Department of Higher Education to serve as a clearinghouse for all training opportunities provided by public higher education institutions.

Commitments to jobs will strengthen our economy for future generations and the $6.3 million investment in the Massachusetts Cultural Council, $6 million for Local Tourist Councils and $6.9 million for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism will help preserve tourism to the area.

In order to maintain the Commonwealth’s fiscal health, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means proposes improvements that increase efficiency and allow for greater transparency. Recent efforts have secured Massachusetts’ highest bond rating in its history, translating into millions in savings in lower interest rates. This budget provides $750,000 for a new State Police Public Benefit Fraud Unit that will be charged with working with other local, state, and federal authorities to investigate and pursue cases where benefits intended to help our neediest families are being misused. Furthermore, this budget requires all stores that accept cash assistance benefits to post a sign explaining where to report fraud and expands the list of restricted items that cannot be purchased with cash assistance benefits.

“This budget supports the important programs and initiatives that ensure the Commonwealth remains on a path for continued development,” continued Spilka. “These recommendations will improve our economy, our communities, and the quality of life of residents across the Commonwealth.”

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